How bad are trans fats?
The FDA will give the "generally recognized as safe" wording to just about anything that passes for food. But the FDA has now ruled that trans fats are not "generally recognized as safe" anymore. Food companies now have 3 years to rid their products of trans fats.
While the FDA has sent signs that this ban was coming, the policy, even in the height of the fight against trans fats, has been to allow companies to post "0g trans fat" if the amount was less than ½ gram per serving. Of course, serving sizes are up to the discretion of the food company.
If a food product has partially hydrogenated oils, that food has trans fat.
As a food society, we have wrestled with low-fat, no-fat, good-fat, and bad-fat. In a world where people are confused about fat, trans fats have been known to be bad for some time, yet were allowed to linger quietly. 3 years is still a long time, but the clock is now ticking.
Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Report told us in late 2013 why trans fats are bad. Individual cities and states as well as major food companies took steps to get rid of trans fats many years before that. 2018 feels like a long time given that the first story we reported on trans fat was in 2005.
In 2006, we found out that the American Heart Association set a specific limit on trans fats at less than 1 percent of total calories, less than 20 calories of trans fats in a 2,000 calorie diet. Sally Squires of The Washington Post put that at 2 grams of trans fat, or roughly what is in ½ of a small bag of fast-food fries.
Food companies should have been aware that this was coming. Even those that have already made the change (we're looking at you, McDonald's) did so kicking and screaming. Amusingly, most of the food that still has trans fats is food that you don't really need to survive.
McDonald's did take a taste hit when the restaurant chain finally ditched trans fat for its fries, but in 2018, every place will have the same advantages and disadvantages.
Without looking through my pantry, I know of one food item with partially hydrogenated oils: a generic brand of fake bacon bits. In those bits, the partially hydrogenated oil is the 2nd-highest ingredient on the nutrition label.
I don't eat much of those fake bacon bits or too often. As for restaurants, many have cut back on trans fats but we don't know which ones still use them. In about 3 years, the answer as to how much will be easier to find out.
Eating trans fat has been linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol as well as higher body weight, heart disease, and memory loss. But only in 2018 will trans fats be completely banned.
We need fat to live and should be eating more good fat. While we are still vague on bad fat, we know enough to do something about trans fat. Finally, the FDA recognizes the obvious … in 2018.
Here are the stories where we reported on trans fat from most recent to long ago:
- What's Tempting: Banning trans fats December 06, 2013
- Temptation of the Week: Kobe beef, but Trader Joe's serving size has way too much fat July 01, 2011
- 'The Simpsons' tackles healthy food phenomena November 23, 2009
- California to ban trans fats in restaurants July 26, 2008
- McD's fries may be free of trans fats, but the taste difference is bad news June 03, 2008
- Dunkin' Donuts getting rid of trans fats August 27, 2007
- McDonald's doing much better in NYC August 21, 2007
- Steak 'n' Shake switching to trans fat free oils June 03, 2007
- Burger King has a trans fat free plan February 02, 2007
- NYC bans trans fats December 05, 2006
- 'Dateline NBC' doesn't put up much of a food fight August 19, 2006
- Now we know how much trans fat June 24, 2006
- Trans fat battle goes after KFC June 13, 2006
- Wendy's to use healthier oil June 09, 2006
- I ate the free food March 05, 2006
- Read trans fat labels carefully January 16, 2006
- Report issued on trans fats in Canada September 07, 2005
- Just change the oil already May 22, 2005